Marine Corps officials recently announced that testing of the CH-53 King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter is nearly concluded and that the colossal flying machine is on track to enter service in 2019, per Military.com
The King Stallion will replace the Marines Corps' current CH-53E Super Stallion fleet.
“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” CH-53 program chief Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght said at the annual Sea-Air-Space expo on April 9. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”
In addition to a 27,000-pound payload capacity three times larger than that of its predecessor, the new aircraft's smart controls will make it safer than ever for pilots to operate.
"A month ago, I got to fly the 53K for the first time," said Vanderborght. "It is absolutely night and day between Echo and the Kilo. I could have pretty much flown the entire flight without touching my controls."
Unsurprisingly, it's also insanely expensive. Military.com has further details regarding the King Stallion's mammoth price tag.
In 2017, Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., raised concerns that the per unit cost for the King Stallion was climbing, to $122 million apiece in development. Program officials said the aircraft was never set to cost that much in production.
Vanderborght said the unit cost of the aircraft is now set to come in at $87 million.
Like the Super Stallion, it will be armed with three .50 caliber machine guns—two in the windows, one in the ramp.
Watch the King Stallion's first ever flight in the video above.
h/t: Task & Purpose